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13 Reasons Why You Should be Proud of Your Addiction Recovery

You didn’t choose to have a substance use disorder, but you did choose to overcome addiction and get sober. Instead of feeling ashamed of your vulnerabilities and past mistakes, celebrate your addiction recovery, and be proud of how far you have come.

The Addiction Recovery Gap in America

In a 2015 study of substance use in the United States, more than 66 million people reported binge drinking in the past month, and more than 27 million people reported misusing prescription drugs or using illicit drugs. The misuse of drugs and alcohol damages individuals and communities, leading to increased healthcare costs, the neglect and abuse of children, increased rates of violence and crime, and increased emotional and psychological suffering.

Most people in the United States either know someone who has a substance use disorder, or have lost or almost lost a loved one due to substance misuse. Despite this prevalence, there is widespread misunderstanding and bias against individuals with substance use problems.

Only 10% of individuals with substance use disorder receive any kind of treatment.

There are many reasons for this treatment or recovery gap—such as, being unable to access or believing you are unable to access treatment, and a lack of screening for or effective identification of substance use disorder—but one of the biggest contributors is the stigma of addiction.

How the Stigma of Addiction Contributes to the Recovery Gap

A fear of suffering discrimination for having substance use disorder can dissuade people from seeking addiction recovery treatment, and the shame produced by the stigma of addiction can lead to secrecy and intensified denial.

But why is there a stigma associated with addiction, when no one actually chooses to become addicted? For one thing, not everyone understands how drugs and alcohol physically lead to addiction, or that addiction is a disease that alters the chemical and structural makeup of the brain in ways that promote substance misuse. It is not a moral failing, a sign of weakness, or in any way a deliberate choice. It is a medical condition that requires expert treatment, same as other chronic diseases like hypertension and asthma.

Society has spent generations scorning “addicts,” “junkies,” and “drunks,” and viewing anyone who uses drugs as a criminal. Even the healthcare field shows a bias against people with substance use disorder by referring to substance “abuse” and “clean” or “dirty” drug screens. Look at it this way—a clinician testing a diabetic for elevated blood sugar would never report back that the patient’s blood tested “dirty.” These kinds of attitudes not only discourage people from getting help like detox treatment, they reduce positive outcomes among people who do get addiction recovery treatment.

The first step to overcoming the stigma of addiction is to change our perspective on substance use disorders in ways that promotes pride and positivity in addiction recovery—and that change can begin with you.

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Positivity in Addiction Recovery

Recovery is an ongoing process, and staying positive is key to success. No matter how severe the degree of your addiction, you can regain your health, improve your social functioning, gain financial and emotional independence, learn to live a self-directed life, and find ways to start reaching your true potential.

The average person has approximately 70,000 thoughts a day, and many of these are repeated, negative ideas that play on a loop. Unfortunately, humans are wired this way to some extent. Holding onto negative experiences and anticipating negative outcomes can be useful for survival in a hunter-gatherer society. It ensures you don’t mess with a predator’s baby and that you think carefully before eating a plant you never saw before. The good news is that we can bypass this wiring with a little effort.

Effort, however, does not mean forcing negativity away—that simply won’t work. If you try as hard as you can to not think a particular negative thought, you’re probably going to end up digging into that negative thought even deeper, giving it power. If instead, you accept that negative thoughts are natural, you free up energy to start replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones—a strategy that actually does work.

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Gratitude = Positivity

Addiction recovery requires a positive outlook, and one of the easiest ways to promote positivity is to cultivate gratitude. Studies have shown that gratitude makes us happier, deepens our connections with other people, and improves our mental strength and resilience. It’s even been proven to improve physical health by boosting immunity, increasing pain tolerance, and lowering blood pressure.

Feeling grateful isn’t always easy, at least not at first. But it is skill that you can develop until it becomes a habit, and then a way of life. Gratitude can defeat negativity, supercharge your addiction recovery, and amplify your joy in living. Feeling proud of your addiction recovery is just another way to be grateful for it—while also refusing to accept the limitations that come from the needless stigma associated with addiction.

13 Reasons Why You Should Be Proud of Your Addiction Recovery

1. The Ability to Embrace Change

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Recovering from addiction will give you a new outlook on life.

It has been said by many people in many ways that the only guarantee in life is change. Embracing life’s changeability can teach you that obstacles can be overcome, and today’s anxiety or low mood will eventually pass. Change also means that life is always full of possibilities and unexpected gifts.

2. Rebuilding Your Health

Whether or not you had a close brush with death due to overdose, addiction is a progressive disease can be fatal without treatment. Getting treatment, and rebuilding your health and vitality is not only a great accomplishment, it is something that pays off with improved energy, appearance, and mood; clearer thinking, and a longer lifespan. Being healthy allows you to be your best self.

3. Appreciating Family

Whether your family members are actual blood relations, or you’ve found good friends and other loved ones who’ve become your chosen family, one of the most wonderful things about addiction recovery is how it heals relationships and deepens connections with the people who matter most to you.

4. Your Honesty

Successful addiction recovery requires honesty, and while honesty can be challenging, it is also immensely rewarding. Being open about your addiction and no longer having to hide that part of yourself can feel like letting go of a heavy burden. The honesty of recovery also has a way of extending to all aspects of experience, empowering you to recognize and pursue what you want out of life, and creating deeper, and more authentic relationships with others.

5. The Ability to Work

Whether you work at a job, in school, or in the home as a caregiver (or all three), being able to work and fulfill your responsibilities is a wonderful thing. Having a regular income that allows you to save for the future, being able to count on yourself to follow through on your intentions, and developing independence and self-reliance replaces the uncertainties and risks of an active addiction with a warm sense of security.

6. No Longer Missing Out

The life of a person with substance use disorder revolves around addiction. This usually results in scores of missed opportunities, and skipped weddings, graduations, and other important events. Now that you are in addiction recovery, you no longer have to make excuses and miss out on the big moments in life.

7. The Ability to Help Others

Helping others in peer support groups, by volunteering, or by becoming a sponsor in a 12-step group not only gives you the chance to pay forward all the advice and lessons that helped you succeed in recovery, it also shows you how much you’ve grown, how far you’ve come, and how strong you really are.

8. You’ve Overcome the Odds

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, and the fact that you have found recovery is an amazing achievement. If you’ve experienced relapse, rather than see it as a failure, recognize that giving yourself a fresh start with detox treatment, and changing or adjusting your recovery plan to better support your sobriety, are even more amazing achievements. Recommitting to sobriety after a relapse proves that you have the resiliency for lifelong recovery success.

9. Expanded Freedom

Addiction can be like a prison that severely limits your choices and actions. Breaking free of the cycle of addiction means reclaiming your ability to make your own choices and to control the things that are within your power to direct. With newly developed coping mechanisms, you can handle triggers with substance use in healthy ways that don’t impede your ability to create and maintain the life you want for yourself.

10. Setting and Pursuing Goals

With improved health, a clear mind, and newfound freedom, you can set and achieve personal goals. Some of these may be major—like graduating from college or starting a new career—but it is important to also be proud of less dramatic goals, such as learning to sew, taking a ceramics class, or getting back into Salsa dancing.

11. New Experiences

Addiction recovery opens up a world of potential experiences for you to explore. Trying something new, or doing something familiar in a new, healthy way, should be valued. Even the fact that you are alive today and able to have new experiences, no matter what they are, is a wonderful accomplishment.

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12. Feeling Your Feelings

When you are in an active addiction, you often hide from your feelings, anesthetize them, or conversely, artificially change or amplify them. Starting with detox treatment, you can begin to truly live by connecting to your experiences and feeling your true feelings. Feeling the full spectrum of emotions can be both wonderful and terrible, but it is always good, because it is what allows you to be fully human and alive.

13. Living with Hope

Addiction recovery means shifting from an out of control existence that had you unable to trust yourself and uncertain from moment to moment if disaster was about to strike, to being able to create a stable life. Addiction can feel like a black hole of despair, but through detox treatment and addiction recovery, you can pass through despair to hope, where you know that even if you had a bad day, you have a healthy, positive future ahead.

Increasing Everyday Gratitude

Gratitude is ever-expanding and limitless. You can feel grateful for the huge things, the small things, the good things—even the bad things. Learning how to find something to be thankful for in “bad” life experience, can make a major difference to your overall contentment. If someone hurts your feelings, you can be grateful that you don’t let your reaction control you. If you’re stuck in traffic, you can be grateful that you have a good podcast to listen to, or that you have extra time to think through a problem or make a plan for the rest of the day.

Tips on How to Create Your Own Gratitude List or Gratitude Journal

  1. Keep it honest: Only write down things that you feel grateful for, not things you feel like you’re supposed to feel grateful for.
  2. Keep it simple: Don’t make the items on your list too complicated, or go into too much detail. All you need are a few words that get across the general idea.
  3. Commit to writing daily: even if it’s just one or two things, writing down your gratitude at least once every day can make a big difference.
  4. Incorporate it into your bedtime routine: Not only will writing in a gratitude journal for 10 to 15 minutes before bed establish a gratitude habit, studies have shown that it will help you fall asleep faster and get a better-quality sleep.
  5. Add and review: Continue to add new entries to your gratitude journal or list, and read over what you’ve written from time to time, to help motivate your recovery with active gratitude.

For more information on addiction recovery, or for help finding a treatment program that meets your needs, call  800-996-6135(Who Answers?) today!

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